I’ve worked with children for about six or seven years now, and let me tell you, it’s been a wild ride. Kids say incredible and strange and beautiful and disturbing things. For example, I remember a preschooler asking one of my coworkers if her mom picks her up after work. The coworker responded, “No, I drive myself to and from work,” to which the four-year-old asked, “Then why do you have one?”
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As if a mother and a chauffeur are completely interchangeable, and mothers become obsolete the minute their children turn sixteen. Another time, a couple of elementary-schoolers were putting on a play they’d made up, and the seven-year-old director told her cast, “We need the audience to be crying or laughing, because that’s the only time people are really awake!” There’s something so pure about the way children see the world, and I found this pureness was especially present during my favorite preschool activity: dress up.
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Each classroom was equipped with princess gowns, superhero costumes, firefighter and police uniforms. I loved helping my kids dress up and play pretend, and I especially loved the adorable and strange combinations of costume pieces the kid’s would select. For example, I remember a three-year-old boy parading around in a Cinderella dress accessorized with a Batman mask. Or a little girl in a firefighter uniform and miniature Minnie Mouse high heels.
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The idea of gendered clothing is completely foreign to children, and I think it’s absolutely wonderful. Which is why I found myself crying silently in the back of a classroom one day as my co-teacher read Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress to our preschoolers. Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress is a children’s book written by Christine Baldacchino and beautifully illustrated by Isabelle Malenfant.
As you can probably guess, the story is about a little boy, Morris Micklewhite, who enjoys wearing a tangerine dress during dress-up. The book says Morris “likes the color of the dress. It reminds him of tigers, the sun and his mother’s hair.”
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Like, look at how happy he is! I’m already tearing up. In addition to the dress, he also likes wearing shoes that go “click, click, click across the floor.” Of course, his classmates tell him dresses are for girls, and isolate him for wearing the dress.
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What follows is a lesson in acceptance, self expression, and imagination. I won’t give it away, but it’s so lovely and the illustrations are phenomenal and I 100% cried. If you’re looking for a story to teach your children or students to be open-minded and accepting, I absolutely recommend this. The world could use a few more Morris Micklewhites.
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